A plumber has been hit with a huge $121,000 penalty for underpaying a labourer.
The Federal Circuit Court described the wage theft as an “outrageous exploitation of a young person”.
As a result, it penalised Michael Pulis $21,500 and his company, Pulis Plumbing, a further $100,000.
Plumber hit with huge penalty for paying labourer apprentice rates
Pulis deliberately paid the 21 year-old labourer an apprentice rate of just $12.18 an hour, despite not signing him up as an apprentice.
The rate for a labourer is far higher – $37.08 for ordinary hours, and up to $74.16 an hour for overtime.
As a result, Pulis underpaid the young employee a total of $26,882.
When the worker complained about his pay, Pulis responded by telling him to “seriously f-ck off”.
‘Outrageous exploitation of a young person’
In the Federal Circuit Court, Judge Grant Riethmuller slammed Pulis for his “outrageous exploitation of a young person”.
Further, he described the conduct as “nothing short of avarice”.
“The conduct is worse than simply underpaying an employee who has had difficulty obtaining work elsewhere, as the respondents also held out the lure of an apprenticeship to this young man: a particularly significant career and life goal for a young person who is not academically inclined.
“The amount of the underpayment, in comparison to the payments actually made, is significant.”
Pulis also breached record-keeping and pay slip laws, and failed to produce records for Fair Work inspectors.
Case is a warning for employers
Miles Heffernan, Director of Litigation at IR Claims, says the case is a warning to employers tempted to dud their workers.
“This is a wake up call for all employers to do the right thing by their employees, by paying minimum award conditions,” he said.
“Too many times we see employers ripping off vulnerable young workers, calling them ‘apprentices’ when they are in reality, labourers who should be receiving a full wage.”
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